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NINDS Funds Brigham and Women's Researcher for Parkinson's Biomarker Study

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – A Brigham and Women's Hospital researcher has won $2.6 million in funding from the National Institute of Neurological Diseases and Stroke to search for biomarkers for Parkinson's disease and to share data from its Parkinson's biobank with other researchers.

The hospital said this week that it was awarded the five-year grant under NINDS's new Parkinson's Disease Biomarkers Program. The NINDS initiative will fund research into diagnostic and prognostic biomarkers, support a biorepository at the Coriell Institute for Medical Research, and create a data management resource to provide bioinformatics support to the research community.

The research at Brigham and Women's will delve into the human genome in search of segments of RNA that may affect or regulate the brain and could be involved in Parkinson's disease.

BWH researcher and lead investigator on the grant Clemens Scherzer has been leading research into neurological biomarkers for nearly a decade. His team has already enrolled 2,000 patients and has, with support from the Harvard Neurodiscovery Center, developed a large biobank of Parkinson's tissue.

The biobank so far has been primarily available for Parkinson's research within the Harvard-affiliated community, but under the NINDS program this resource will be made available to all researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health.

According to Brigham and Women's Hospital, Scherzer and his colleagues "believe that 'dark matter' RNA transcribed from stretches of so-called 'junk' DNA is active in brain cells and contributes to the complexity of normal dopamine neurons and, when corrupted, Parkinson's disease."

"This offers a potentially ground breaking opportunity for biomarker development," Scherzer said. "Initially, the team will search for these RNAs associated in brain tissue of individuals at earliest stages of the disease. Then, this team will look for related biomarkers in the bloodstream and cerebrospinal fluid in both healthy brains and those with Parkinson's."